Saturday, April 18, 2009

Installing Vista

I mentioned in my other post that our central desktop support team wants to move the organization to Vista. I volunteered to be a "tester" for the new Vista image. So on Wednesday, April 15, our desktop support folks "upgraded" my laptop from Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista Enterprise.

This was supposed to be a fairly painless install experience, and I suppose it was (all things considering.) The support guy started loading the image at about 3:15PM. The install process completed at about 5:45PM. I didn't stick around the whole time (it was an automated install) but I was there for about the last hour or so.

In that final hour, I watched Windows reboot itself no less than 5 times. Watching the progress meter, I could see that each reboot occurred after a major software component had been installed (Office, etc.) I'd almost forgotten that Windows needs to reboot for system changes or software installations to take effect.

After the installation was finished, I still wasn't done. Vista doesn't encrypt the contents of the hard drive until after the system is installed. This took about 6 hours. So for most of the work day on Thursday, I suffered very poor performance.

Let's compare to Linux:

Whenever I've installed Linux, I have always backed up my data, and re-installed from scratch, not an "upgrade" in place. I prefer to install pretty much everything: OpenOffice, GIMP, etc, including Firefox and Email. Fedora 9 and Fedora 10 installed in about an hour, including performing whole-disk encryption. (In Fedora 8 and previous distributions, whole-disk encryption wasn't possible, so I would reserve most of the disk for the /home filesystem, and encrypt only that partition. These manual steps added maybe 15-20 minutes.)

So that's about 1 hour to install a complete Linux system, including encryption.

And about 2.5 hours to install Windows Vista, including applications, plus another 6 hours to encrypt the data. That's a rough total of about 8.5 hours for a complete Vista system, including encryption.

Granted, the Vista system was "usable" after those first 2.5 hours - but only barely.

I'd say the Linux install process wins here, hands down. People sometimes complain that reviewers focus too much on installing Linux and don't spend enough time with the applications. But I'd like to point out the installation process on Windows definitely bites in comparison to anything on Linux. And that's with the latest version of Windows and the latest version of (Fedora) Linux, so I'm making an apples-to-apples comparison here.


  1. My install of Mint averages about half an hour to 45 minutes, give or take if I'm playing music from my external drive at the time. The most time-consuming part of my installation process is browsing Gnome-Look for some new themes :P.

  2. I also had a long Vista installation, almost an hour. (Desktop, so almost certainly faster hard drive.) Even on a laptop, XP installs in 30-45 minutes even on a laptop for me, so it is kind of annoying how long it takes given that you're not even getting much to speak of in terms of applications. Sounds like you are getting some apps in there too, so that install time isn't terrible.

    "I'd almost forgotten that Windows needs to reboot for system changes or software installations to take effect."

    That's not entirely fair... almost all programs don't need reboots any more, many system changes don't need reboots, and even occasional patches you'll get from Windows update don't require rebooting.

    Some large programs will ask for a reboot, but even most of those will work even if you say no. I'm not even sure that Office needed one, though it's very possible it did; there's a chance it's just your IT dept or another group telling it to reboot just as a precaution.

    It *is* still too picky, but it's also oodles better than a decade ago, when probably 2/3 of programs would tell you to reboot.

  3. "Sounds like you are getting some apps in there too, so that install time isn't terrible."

    I changed the wording of this paragraph and forgot to finish what I wanted to say. I intended to add "at least by Vista standards. The couple recent non-Gentoo Linux installations I've done went rather faster, so I'm not sure what Vista is doing."

  4. Could be the way IT decided to load the software, at least partially. If IT wrote installation scripts, they may have chosen to force reboots.

  5. No, the rebooting is a default part of any vista installation. I only know this bc I work at a computer store where reinstalling Vista is usually the best solution to (serious) Vista issues.

    An XP installation is the closest you're gonna get to easy (most of the time, as I've had installations refuse to recognize the install disk).

  6. Reinstalling is still the predominant fix for windows issues? LOL

    Funny how windows STILL can't properly fix itself when it screws itself up or malware infects that sloppy mush.


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